We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

As Mr O’Toole says it doesn’t need a majority just enough people that are prepared to use intimidation, at which point I look at Antifa and their habit of turning up to peaceful events masked and almost in uniform to make sure that those events aren’t peaceful. To see who’s using intimidation to suppress opinion and freedom of association we need to point the camera in the opposite direction to where Mr O’Toole would have us look. We’re seeing that tricky step of people getting used to extreme cruelty and violence with the readiness that people took to “punch a Nazi”. Which rapidly became “punch anyone that looks a bit like a Nazi” and then “punch anyone we disagree with”. Which groups are being dehumanised and widely portrayed as a threat, depends on which reel you’re watchdog from the one side it’s numerous protected minorities particularly those of certain faith which cannot be criticised, from the other side the threat is the racist proles that votes for Brexit, like the football and are starting to become interested in politics.

Anonymong

Samizdata quote of the day

Imagine that we did have some arbiter of what was true, what was not. Then the definition of truth will be whatever the consensus is, wouldn’t it? Something which might well benefit those who agree with that status quo in beliefs but does rather militate against the basic ideas of either free speech or a free press.

Yes, of course, actual free speech and press is messy, chaotic and not as many would like. But that’s rather the point, so is liberty those three things. Trying to limit that press and speech will be a constraint upon that liberty too.

Tim Worstall

The special costume shop

Things had been very boring in the rue de la Fête. Mr Benalla thought, “I think it is a good day to visit the special costume shop.” Inside the shop, as if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared.

“Good morning sir,” he said. “Which costume would you like to try today?”

“That one with the visor, please,” said Mr Benalla. And he took the outfit into the fitting room. Inside the room, Mr Benalla changed into the outfit and then looked at himself in the mirror. “It looks a bit like a riot cop’s costume,” he thought. “Is that cool or what?” Then he went through the door – not the door back to the shop but the second door that could lead to an adventure!

*

So to prevent the immense coercive power of the state from being abused, said Hayek, we need to restrict its use to enforcing a strictly limited list of duties that we all accept and understand. Setting limits on how the state’s monopoly of force can be used at least spares us from arbitrary or growing coercion by other people who happen to be in authority.

Friedrich Hayek: The ideas and influence of the Libertarian Economist by Eamonn Butler

*

For those poor souls who did not grow up with tales of Mr Benn, this post refers to the extra-curricular activities of Alexandre Benalla, formerly a senior security officer for President Macron of France:

Emmanuel Macron faces the biggest crisis of his presidency over the growing scandal of one of his closest security officials who was filmed being allowed by police to violently assault a young man and woman at the edge of a Paris demonstration while illegally dressed as an officer.

That the French riot police beat people up is not news. That they allow well-connected civilians to put on a spare uniform and join in the fun was surprising. Then again, as George Atkisson says below, “The whole point of being well-connected and exempt from everyday rules is precisely to be allowed to indulge in one’s extra-legal whims without consequences.”

More sage advice…

Dear “Shrill Voice,”

This is difficult. Normally I tell has-beens and never-has-beens (and you seem to be both) to rake in the loot and live comfortably. But you’ve already done that. Clearly domestic political office is out because nobody likes losers. And you couldn’t win international office because all the countries you bombed would vote against you. Clearly, you have to make some Hard Choices.

Why not trade on the fact that you are not the most loved and respected person in the world? License virtual reality game arenas named after you in which contestants would face 100 avatars of you in various settings and have to kill as many as possible. This would be incredibly popular, and players would readily pay $100 a game, with the money going, of course, to the “charity” of your choice.

Hmmm, I wonder who Aunt Agatha is referring to? 😉

Conservation of prohibitionism

July 1st 2018:

Jeremy Corbyn backs calls to decriminalise possession of cannabis

Jeremy Corbyn said he would like to see the possession of cannabis to be decriminalised as he backed calls for the drug to be used for medicinal purposes.

July 10th 2018:

Corbyn backs Nordic Model to tackle sexual exploitation

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn declared his full support for Britain to look at changing our prostitution laws by criminalising the purchase of sex, also referred to as the ‘Nordic model’.

EU plunders Google

Google worked with others to make software for phones. They did not have to do this, and nobody had to use their software. People just found it useful enough that they agreed to use Google’s software with certain conditions attached that they found agreeable. The EU, under the guise of arbitrary rules limiting voluntary interactions, is going to plunder 5 billion Euros from Google.

A friend on Facebook writes, “No! Fuck off fuck off fuck off! This money will get pissed away and squandered (probably on drink by Jean-Claude Juncker) […] their view seems to be: ‘If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it.'” (I think Ronald Reagan would agree with that last part.)

The CEO of Google points out that Android has created more choice, not less.

Food science vs government

Terence Kealey has a policy analysis on the Cato Institute entitled Why Does the Federal Government Issue Damaging Dietary Guidelines? Lessons from Thomas Jefferson to Today. I found this from a comment by ‘Bloke in North Dorset’ from Tim Worstall’s blog.

It is a very good document. It begins with a history lesson on government food advice. In 1953 people were having heart attacks so the government had to Do Something about it. Ancel Keys said it was caused by eating too much fat. But science is never that easy.

As Yerushalmy and Hilleboe pointed out at the 1955 WHO seminar, and as they expanded in their 1957 paper, the data thus suggested the citizens of poor countries (who largely ate vegetables, including starchy vegetables such as maize/corn, rice, and potatoes) didn’t die much of heart disease (but they were vulnerable to other diseases); while the citizens of rich countries (who ate a lot of meat, which includes much fat) died largely of heart disease (but were protected from other causes of death).

The document explains how understanding gradually increased but that even today the relationships are not fully understood. Adding government to the debate was not helpful.

On being challenged on the incompleteness of the science, Senator McGovern said “Senators do not have the luxury that the research scientist does of waiting until every last shred of evidence is in,” which is the opposite of the truth: research scientists are at leisure — and are perhaps even obligated — to explore every possible hypothesis, but senators should not issue advice until every last shred of evidence is in, because they may otherwise issue misleading or even dangerous advice. As they did in 1977.

In fact the government advice was out of date for 60 years:

Although by 1955, within two years of originally proposing it, Keys had abandoned the dietary cholesterol hypothesis, for another 60 years the federal government continued to warn against consuming cholesterol-rich foods. It was only in 2015 that its Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee classified high-cholesterol foods such as eggs, shrimp, and lobster as safe to eat: “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

This 60-year delay shows how asymmetrical the official science of nutrition can be: a federal agency can label a foodstuff dangerous based on a suggestion, yet demand the most rigorous proof before reversing its advice.

This is the sort of thing that comes from applying the precautionary principle. But taking precautions turns out to be risky action.

To Mark Hegsted’s question in his introductory statement to the Goals — “What are the risks associated with eating less meat, less fat, less saturated fat, less cholesterol?” — we can now reply that if, in consequence, people were to follow his advice and eat more carbohydrates and more trans fats in compensation, the risks are of precipitating early death from atherosclerosis. Irony of ironies.

The document describes multiple causes of the disconnect between the real understanding and the public policy. Scientists are not perfect:

The popular view is that scientists are falsifiers, but in practice they are generally verifiers, and they will use statistics to extract data that support their hypotheses. Keys, for example, was not a dishonest man, he was merely a typical scientist who had formulated a theory, which — by using poor statistics — he was able over the course of a long career and many publications to appear to verify.

And the government makes things worse:

Governments may be institutionally incapable of providing disinterested advice for at least four reasons. First, the scientists themselves may be divided, and by choosing one argument over another, the government may be making a mistake. Second, by abusing the precautionary principle, the government may be biasing its advice away from objectivity to risk-avoidance long before all the actual risks have been calculated. Third, because of public pressure, it may offer premature advice. And fourth, its advice will be distorted by lobbying.

I imagine that much of the story described here, at least the science history part, is well understood in retrospect and uncontroversial. Its lessons might be applied elsewhere. What currently controversial science suffers from poor statistics and is being distorted by government involvement, I wonder?

Get them while they’re young

The Courier reports:

Scottish Government asks eight-year-olds to reveal their Brexit views

The Scottish Government is appealing to children as young as eight to share their views on Brexit.

Critics branded the Twitter plea for youngsters to “work with” the government on a Europe panel “creepy”.

But the SNP administration defended the move as giving those who will be most affected by leaving the EU a “voice in the Brexit negotiations”.

The call by the Twitter account ScotGovEurope said: “Are you aged 8 – 18? Children and young people in Scotland are going to be affected by #Brexit, so we want your views!

“Apply to join the @cisweb Children & Young People’s Panel on Europe to work with @scotgov.”

It sparked claims that SNP ministers are trying to indoctrinate children on the constitution.

The charity says that young people have a “right to be heard in the discussions about Brexit”, which they say is backed up by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Brexit is the single biggest threat to our economy and future prosperity, and children and young people will be most affected in the coming years.

“We are therefore supporting Children in Scotland to establish the children and young people’s panel on Europe and enable them to have a voice in the Brexit negotiations.”

Here’s where you can apply to join the Panel, but first they recommend that you ask yourself

Is the project for me?

This project might be for you if you like standing up for the things you believe in, and
talking about:
• What Brexit might mean for your family and friends
• What people in charge should be doing to help children
• What rules people in charge should follow when they make
decisions about Brexit

I think we can safely say that most Samizdata readers qualify. However this one might be more tricky:

• Why children should have their say on Brexit

The question of whether those who think that children should not have their say on Brexit could or should join the Panel is left for the reader. Oh, I nearly forgot, to be eligible you do have to be aged between eight and eighteen. Reassuringly,

You don’t need to know much about Brexit to apply. We will share information with you to
help you to take part.

Samizdata quote of the day

“What all of this points to is a new kind of protest. There is a new generation for whom protesting is largely indistinguishable from a music festival. It has the same vibe, the same style, and the same constituency: the non-working classes, who define themselves through culture rather than labour, and who see themselves as having more in common with global technocratic institutions like the EU than they do with some of the people who live in their own towns (but on the other side of the tracks). If this is radicalism – which it isn’t – then it is passive radicalism. It is an entirely contradictory phenomenon, where on the one hand protesters are telling us actual Nazism is making a comeback, but on the other hand they’re not going to do anything about it except chill out in Trafalgar Square and post to Instagram a photo of them and their friends holding a ‘FUCK TRUMP’ placard.”

Brendan O’Neill

I avoided all this dreck by spending the weekend in South Devon, drinking local beer, swimming in the sea and walking on the hills above, with no internet access, no TV (which meant not watching the World Cup final). Heaven.

Elon Musk just made a lot of enemies in Britain

There is a lot to admire about Elon Musk. I thought the space car was glorious. The whimsicality of it, which so many objected to, delighted me.

It is sad that Mr Musk has now shown that his whims can take a nastier turn.

British cave diver considering legal action over Elon Musk’s ‘pedo’ attack

A British cave diver who was instrumental in the rescue of 12 children trapped in a northern Thailand cave says he is considering legal action after the inventor Elon Musk called him a “pedo” on Twitter.

Vernon Unsworth told the Guardian on Monday he was “astonished and very angry” at the attack, for which Musk offered no evidence or basis. The billionaire initially doubled down on the comments made on social media, but has since deleted them.

Apparently it started when Mr Unsworth was rude about Mr Musk’s offer of his mini-submarine to help in the rescue:

Previously, Unsworth had described Musk’s offer to help the rescue effort as a “PR stunt”, and had told CNN Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts”.

If nothing else had been said, my sympathies would have been with Mr Musk. Even if it was something of PR stunt, I am sure Musk did genuinely want to help save lives. Still, I dare say tempers often flare in these high pressure situations. One man’s praiseworthy offer of aid can be another’s dangerous distraction from an urgent task.

However then Mr Musk went on to call Mr Unsworth a “pedo”, not just once – in which case it might have been written off as a random zero-content insult like calling someone a “bastard” when you neither know nor care whether their parents were legally married – but repeatedly. Mr Musk’s “evidence” for this allegation out a blue sky was that Mr Unsworth is a white guy living in Thailand. Musk said that that in itself was “sus”, meaning suspicious.

Angry comments are coming thick and fast to the Times article “Thai boys’ rescuer Vern Unsworth could sue Elon Musk over paedophile smear”. If even a fraction of those commenting on the Times website and those of other British newspapers who have said that they are about to cancel their Tesla order follow through with it, Musk’s UK operation could be in real trouble. That comes on top of the doubts already raised about the company by Tesla’s failure to live up to some of Musk’s earlier extravagant promises. For all the fame of the brand, the number of Tesla electric cars in the UK is still only in the low thousands, and Times subscribers are exactly the sort of people who would be most likely to buy them.

Charismatic individuals can push forward scientific innovation. They can also screw up big time.

Is it time for Parliament to dust off impeachment?

Our friends in the rebellious Colonies have the still active remedy of impeachment for those in office who, one might say, go off the rails, and other remedies as well. In the UK, impeachment is now considered ‘obsolete’ as a means of removing Crown officials, but ‘obsolete’ does not mean ‘defunct’:

As a House of Commons Paper puts it (in the link at the bottom to the pdf.):

It was a medieval means of removing the protection given to a royal servant whom the Commons found objectionable but could not otherwise persuade the Crown to dismiss.

Of course, different parts of the Commons may find the current First Lord of the Treasury ‘objectionable’ for widely varying reasons, either that she is not an avowed openly Marxist destroyer, or that she is simply a ‘Tory’, or that she is far from satisfactory in terms of her integrity.

But we appear for now to be in a situation where neither a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons on Mrs May’s government, nor a vote in her Party via the 1922 Committee in her as a leader, appear to be imminent or practicable.

As the Commons briefing paper notes:

No Prime Minister has ever been impeached. Ministers have been impeached, but those instances occurred before the modern concept of the Cabinet was established.

The first edition of Erskine May, published in 1844, describes impeachment as: “the commons, as a great representative inquest of the nation, first find the crime and then, as prosecutors, support their charge before the lords; while the lords exercising at once the functions of a high court of justice and of a jury, try and also adjudicate upon the charge preferred”.

Let us look at some of the criticisms of impeachment:

Impeachment operated in an era when Parliament and the courts had very limited oversight of government power. Different mechanisms have developed in modern politics to allow for the scrutiny of the executive. These include parliamentary questions, inquiries by select committees and independent committees of inquiry. The growth of the doctrine of collective cabinet responsibility, and the use of confidence motions have both contributed to the disuse of impeachments in modern times. Judicial review also now provides an effective check on the legality of the actions of public officials and government ministers. The impeachment process, last attempted in 1806, has not been revised to reflect the fundamental changes that have occurred in Parliament.

What use is a Parliamentary Question when the Prime Minister has misled the House and the Country for over 2 years? Who would trust an answer now?

Select Committees? All very well for getting some MPs to look at something in-depth, but when there is a cowpat in the Ballroom of State, the answer is steaming away in front of you for you and all your guests to see.

Collective Cabinet responsibility? The Cabinet largely remains in place, happy for this farce to carry on. They are not acting responsibly.

Confidence motions? As noted, there is a confidence motion procedure for the government, which due to the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act now has a cooling-off period, and it is not the government that is the major problem (although it is a big problem generally), but the leader of it.

Party confidence motions are internal matters, nothing to do with Parliament.

Judicial review: Sir Edward Coke left the Bench long ago. Judicial Review is not applicable to this sort of situation.

The beauty of impeaching the Prime Minister would be:

1. It would enjoy cross-party support, helping to ‘heal the wounds’ caused by the contentious issues we face 😉 .

2. It would leave the current Parliamentary composition intact. After all, it is removing a Crown Servant, not a Member of the House. Mrs May would remain an MP.

3. It would leave Mrs May as the unelected Leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party, and put her in the same situation as another notorious appeaser, Neville Chamberlain as leader of the Party and an MP but not Prime Minister. Not quite following the Joseph Chamberlain that she aspires to emulate, but as close as we can manage for now.

4. It would revive the prestige of Parliament, at a time when Mrs Battenberg’s presumed function of ‘to advise, encourage and to warn’ appears to be obsolete. After all, it has recently (in Constitutional timeframes) been used in the United States, an offspring jurisdiction of England, so why should it be ‘obsolete’? We may have reached the lacuna where the remedy has some use.

5. It would (or should) save us paying Mrs May a Prime Ministerial pension later on in a richly-deserved retirement. That will help to reduce our ballooning public sector pensions liabilities.

6 It would cement Mrs May’s place in history, whether or not the Lords were to convict.

Samizdata quote of the day

As a woman, I am much more interested in protecting the right to free speech than I am in catering to the possibly-offended. If we are raising girls to feel damaged by a photo of a woman in a bikini, my goodness we need to do better.

Kate Andrews